Under new powers awarded by the Maastricht treaty, the parliament was due to overturn a European law banning high-performance motor bikes with engines of 100-brake horsepower or above. But it failed to muster the 260 votes necessary because few of the 518 MEPs turned up.
It would have been the first time the parliament could have claimed to have sent the European Commission, responsible for drafting the legislation, packing.
Its failure to do so meant a double disappointment for MEPs such as Peter Beazley who have campaigned not only on behalf of bikers and Britain's bike industry but also for the parliament's new powers to influence and delay legislation in areas such as environmental protection, the single market and consumer affairs.
Now, under procedures set up by the treaty, the Commission's proposed law goes back to a parliamentary committee who will tinker with it and present it again to European ministers in an effort to draft a compromise.
The Commission maintains such bikes, one of the fastest-growing market sectors, are dangerous, but many MEPs argue that there is no evidence to back this claim.
Many MEPs complain that such a ban would injure European bike manufacturers, such as Germany's BMW, Italy's Moto-Guzzi, Ducati and Cagiva, and Triumph. They fear it would play into the hands of Japanese producers, who would be able to switch to the production of smaller bikes with greater ease.
High-performance bikes - the most powerful available is 147bhp - represent 20 per cent of the total market and the British motorcycle industry employs 12,000 people.
The International Federation of Motorcyclists says a more sensible safety measure would be an amendment to the European driving-licence directive which would allow only riders with four or more years experience to ride high- performance bikes.Reuse content